Inside The Washington Campus, A Politics Bootcamp For B-Schoolers

Mike Lord, president of The Washington Campus, and Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, Georgia. Courtesy photo

Ash Soni, executive associate dean for academic programs at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, is currently chair of The Washington Campus’ board of directors, a rotating position he will hold for three years altogether. He notes that Indiana Kelley is an original member school of TWC which more than most member schools has integrated TWC’s unique, intensive, experiential three- to five-day residencies across virtually all of its MBA programs — including the online MBA program Kelley Direct, the Business of Medicine MBA for physicians, and the school’s international E/MBA partner programs. More than 200 Indiana MBA students attend TWC courses annually.

Soni says the chief task of TWC’s board is to handle programming. He uses the 2014 launch of the Affordable Care Act as an example.

“The curriculum is aimed at MBAs in particular and the impact public policy has on business,” Soni tells Poets&Quants. “Generally, the issues that we deal with tend to be the programming of the campus. What direction the campus should take, what are some of the issues that face the campus. So, for example, just to give you an idea of what we’ve been doing, most of the programming until about five or six years ago, dealt with the intersection of business and public policy.

“About five years ago, when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, healthcare came to the forefront. We felt that would be a nice addition to the portfolio. We started offering classes in healthcare policy and healthcare management, and that has turned out to be very successful. We’ve added another component to the portfolio, a course for Master in Accounting students. So now we have three major streams if you will. That’s one of the things that we look at very carefully.”

‘EXPERIENCE, RELATIONSHIPS & ACCESS’

University of Michigan MBA student (and Bostonian) Alex Bernstein with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Courtesy TWC

Current MBA course tuition at The Washington Campus is $1,850 for participants from consortium member schools and $1,950 for participants from non-consortium schools. This includes a $400 non-refundable deposit.

It’s worth every cent, two former attendees say.

Colleen Lerner, who earned her MBA from the UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2019, calls TWC “one of the most memorable experiences I had while pursuing my MBA.” She relished the firsthand knowledge from experts on how companies and industries change and shape corporate strategy based on public policy, calling it “eye-opening,” adding that even after extensive experience in consumer packaged goods she hadn’t appreciated the importance of government relations. “I’ve been in the CPG industry for 25 years and never fully understood the value and work that is done internally with our government relations team,” Lerner tells P&Q. “The experience, relationships, and access that The Washington Campus team has was on full display, with a lineup of hands-on learning including a meeting at the Federal Reserve board room, private tour of the House floor with a former Congressman, meeting with executives at the FTC, Bureau of Consumer Protection, members of the media, and a former mayor, just to name a few.

“We were granted access to the inner workings of Washington, D.C. that few outsiders are able to see. A fascinating, intensive five-day course that intertwines the daily workings of business, government and public policy. If you have the opportunity to take this class, I highly recommend it!”

Another 2019 MBA, Stewart Banner, graduated last year from UNC’s highly ranked online MBA, MBA@UNC. He says The Washington Campus’ team has the kind of experience and connections to D.C. movers and shakers that create memorable and useful programs.

“I cannot say enough good things about the Washington Campus program,” Banner says. “It more than exceeded my already high expectations and was a great way to finish up my MBA coursework at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“I was very impressed with how well-organized the program was and with the stellar group of speakers. We heard presentations from former elected officials such as Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and Congressman Bob Carr, who gave our group of about 40 people a behind-the-scenes tour of the U.S. Capitol. We also listened to and met with top leaders at companies such as Google, and with policy experts, federal agency officials, and national media representatives such as the political director for ABC News.

“The Washington Campus is run by a very knowledgeable and dedicated team. They have the insider connections which enable them to get such an illustrious group of speakers. The program offers an enlightening perspective on how the worlds of business, government and politics, public relations (aka ‘lobbying’), and media intersect and allows students to discover how Washington really is the center of such activity.”

FOR THE MANAGER WITH MORE STRATEGIC RESPONSIBILITIES

On business school campuses, talk of public affairs and public policy can seem theoretical and abstract. But when MBA students come to Washington, D.C. and talk with execs from Google and Facebook and Goldman Sachs and Bank of America about everything from cybersecurity policy to regulation to legislation on privacy, “they see it all matters,” Mike Lord says. “And it matters for their careers and it matters for their companies. So it actually is very common for students to remark that this is the best course in their entire MBA program. It’s very rewarding.”

It’s about getting students to realize details and differences and dynamics in the interplay between the two worlds, says Lord, who joined TWC in 2013. He uses the example of regulatory processes. “In some industries, the regulatory process is more important than what goes on on Capitol Hill. And a lot of students and executives don’t understand that the regulatory process is open to advocacy and lobbying, and that’s a critical part of making things work. And it can literally keep you in business or put you out of business. It’s a black box for some people,” he says.

“So there are general topics, and for the general courses, we include those things like lobbying and advocacy, the role of associations, the role of media in shaping public affairs and policy. And then for the healthcare deep-dive special sections, we cover many of the same topics, but specifically in the healthcare context. So we focus on healthcare regulation and CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) and HHS (Health & Human Services) and FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and things like that. Whereas the general courses are just a general exploration of the regulatory process in general, whether you’re in energy, or financial services, or agriculture the regulatory process looks essentially the same.

“The general courses are filling a gap in the business school curriculum because these are not typically topics addressed in core courses. So you get your traditional finance, you get your marketing, you get your accounting, but then when you’re a general manager with more strategic responsibilities, all of a sudden you have to deal with public affairs. You have to deal with politics and public officials. You have to deal with legislation and regulation, and most people get no training on the job so they get thrown into these roles, the more senior they get. And also business schools tend to neglect and sometimes even ignore entirely these topics. 

“It’s fun because it opens students’ eyes. You almost can see a light bulb going on over their head as they progress through the course, because back on home campus or in their jobs, these topics are abstract. When they get here to Washington D.C. they see that this is all very serious business and it affects their strategy, their operation, their bottom line.”

Learn more about The Washington Campus here.

Lezlee Westine, UCLA Anderson MBA and Washington Campus alum, as well as a speaker for TWC. Westine, president and CEO of the Personal Care Products Council, says her Washington Campus experience “Changed my life!” Courtesy photo

DON’T MISS: MORE EVIDENCE THAT POLITICS ARE KEEPING STUDENTS FROM U.S. B-SCHOOLS or THE BIGGEST B-SCHOOL SCANDALS OF 2019

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